Stawell Railway Station Gallery. Stawell Gallery
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The Stawell Station

Sharing a vision to establish a 'Visual Arts Centre' for Stawell, twenty five local artists met at the Wimmera Street Community Centre on Friday, June 25, 1993 to discuss ways by which such a centre could be established. The Meeting was Chaired by well known local artist Kevin Free. The vision was shared by another twenty two artists and interested persons who were unable to attend the meeting and tendered their apologies.

A Committee was formed, consisting of Sue Cunningham, Kevin Free, Fran. Bourke, Michelle Harrington, Kahl Lawton, Marg. Glover and Rob. Mitchell, to formulate a proposal for an Arts Centre to be presented to the Stawell City Council.

With the assistance of the Stawell and Grampians Development Association a home was found in the Old Railway Station Residence and so the 'Railway Station Gallery' was born and opened on Good Friday, in 1995. More than twenty artists exhibited works in the first Exhibition ranging from photography, craft, sculpture through to paintings and various other works of art.

The Railway Station, including the Stationmaster's Residence, was leased from V-Line by the Stawell & Grampians Development Association to be set up as an Art Gallery. Because the residence had fallen into a state of relative disrepair a considerable amount of work was required to restore the premises to an inhabitable state and after first preparing the ground floor area, the upper level rooms were subsequently brought into operation. The Gallery is funded by membership fees, commissions on sales, grants from V-Line, Council and the Government for improvements. The Gallery also has a number of non-artist 'friends'.

The first Solo Exhibition was held in July and August 1995 featuring the works of Les Matheson. The Exhibition was officially opened by local artist Margaret Glover.

Since opening in 1995 the Gallery has been open on a regular basis and embraces all rooms of the former residence. It is 'staffed' by members on a voluntary basis and a great deal of work has been done to improve the interior appearance and comfort of the venue for both members and visitors.

In early 1999 the gallery members saw a need for additional space to hold special exhibitions and other activities and expanded to include the old 'Parcels Office'. several Exhibitions of prominent artists works have been held in the parcels office since it was bought into use by the gallery.

The Stawell Railway Station History

Following the opening of the railway to Ballarat in 1862, proposals were put forward for the extension of the service to other localities, with the discovery of gold in the area this brought about increased population and the need for a greater transport system.

During debate in the Legislative Assembly in October 1871 on the Railway Extension Bill, which included an extension from Ballarat to Ararat, an unsuccessful attempt was made to have the line extended to Stawell.

The Ararat to Stawell railway was authorised by Act No 475, it was passed on 25th November 1873. The track reached Ararat in 1874 .

The contract for the line was let on 2nd April 1875, Contract No 592 to the firm of Chapman and Leslie.

By February 1876 a temporary platform had been opened at Wild Cat Hill or Scallan's Hill, which was referred to in the newspaper as "The Temporary Platform" and was about 1 and 1/2 miles on the Melbourne side of Stawell. The Railway Line was opened on Tuesday 15th February 1876 with a passenger train leaving the temporary platform for Ararat daily Monday to Saturday so that the Melbourne train could be caught. A partial holiday was observed in Stawell for the temporary opening of the line. A Cricket Match between the Grocers and Town Hall officials was held at Central Par but the main attraction was watching the first train start from the temporary terminus. The newspaper stated that most of the children had never seen a railway engine before. A goods platform was completed at Wild Cat Hill by the end of February 1876.

Meanwhile, work had commenced on the brick station buildings at the permanent station. Scallan's Hill cutting was completed and various bridges to cross the cutting were being erected. The contract to build the station was let in December 1875 to Mr J W Linacre for $1,899

Trains commenced running from the permanent Stawell Railway station on Easter Friday 14th April 1876 with 6 trains running daily over the holidays. The first train on Easter Friday morning carried 500 passengers and "this number must have trebled during the day". After the holidays, two trains ran daily. A goods shed erected in 1876 near the permanent railway station was later judged too small and was replaced in 1886 by the still standing goods shed.

A 2 day holiday was declared at Stawell for the opening of the railway line. A procession was organised from the decorated Main Street to the Railway Station in which marched the Stawell Town Band, Horsham Band,  the local Cock's Band, many Friendly Societies, butchers on horseback wearing their trade jumpers, a Yeomanry Contingent consisting of selectors, farmers and other district residents, also on horseback, wearing tri-coloured rosettes which all added to the colour and excitement of the day.

The Governor of Victoria, Sir George Bowen, arrived in a special train and performed the official opening ceremony on the 25th May 1876. The newspaper reported over 10,000 people present including 3,000 school children who sang "God Save the Queen" as the Governor stepped onto the train platform at 1pm. After speeches of welcome, the Governor declared the railway to Stawell open for public traffic. A banquet, catering for 500 people was held at the rear of the Town Hall in a marquee measuring 110feet x 60 feet. Tickets cost 10s. 6d. per couple. That night, the Governor attended a grand ball and supper in the Assembly Hall at the Town Hall while a People's Ball and supper was held at the Royal Victoria Theatre which was then a part of the Commercial Hotel.

Early station masters and their families lived in the station building while licensed refreshment rooms were opened on New Year's day 1889 and remained open until 1916.

Passenger trains ceased operations at Stawell on 21st August 1993 and happily recommenced again on the 11th April 2011.

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